Lassiter 35, South Forsyth 21

The No. 6-ranked Lassiter Trojans jumped out to a massive first half lead against the No. 8 South Forsyth War Eagles, then held on for dear life for a 35-21 home win in AAAAAAA action on Friday at Frank Fillmann Stadium.

The Trojans (5-0) built a 35-0 lead with 8:43 remaining in the first half. But before the question of a second-half running clock could be asked, the War Eagles (3-2) tacked on a touchdown with 33 seconds left in the second quarter, then chipped away at the lead with touchdowns in each the third and fourth quarters while holding Lassiter scoreless the rest of the way.

After South Forsyth pulled to within 35-21 with 11:54 remaining, the Trojans fumbled on their next possession to give the War Eagles the ball on the Lassiter 41. But the War Eagles couldn’t capitalize, turning the ball over on downs.

“This was a great team win,” Trojans coach Jep Irwin said. “That’s a good football team we just beat, so this gives us a great learning opportunity. We’ll take this and learn from it.”

Though it was South Forsyth that had one of the state’s top-scoring offenses, averaging 40.3 points a game, it was the Trojans who came out firing. Bradley Riopelle ripped two 60-yard touchdown passes in the first quarter, one to Dawson Brown and the other to Kyle Syvarth. The Syvarth touchdown came on a reverse-plus-flea flicker trick play. Alex Venturino’s 40-yard run gave Lassiter a 21-0 lead through the first quarter.

On the other side of the ball, the Trojans showcased one of the state’s top-scoring defenses by giving War Eagles dual-threat quarterback Davis Shanley fits. Shanley was sacked four times and threw two picks in the first half alone.

Frustrations mounted, with South Forsyth offensive lineman Dylan Nissley getting ejected for throwing a punch midway through the second quarter.

Everything seemed to be going right for the Trojans in the first half. Their final touchdown came when Riopelle fumbled on a run from the South Forsyth 2, with the ball flying forward into the end zone. That’s where Venturino fell on it for his second score of the game.

“It was great (to go up 35-0 early) and obviously we needed all of those points,” Irwin said. “Now we’ve got to work on finishing once we get ahead.”

The tide started to turn a little bit for the War Eagles as the first half ended. They closed the half with a 61-yard drive culminating in a Shanley-to-Pontrelli 11-yard touchdown with 33 seconds left.

With 3:05 remaining in the third, Jaylen Pearson caught a 22-yard pass from Shanley to cap a nine play 83-yard drive. The final score of the game came on the War Eagles’ next possession, when on third and 10, Shanley completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Guy Mora.

Riopelle finished with 242 passing yards on 14 for 23 passing and Venturino led the Trojans with 67 rushing yards on 15 carries. Brown had 118 receiving yards on three catches and Syvarth had 103 yards on four catches.

Shanley completed 29 of his 47 passes for 298 yards with 13 completions to Pontrelli for 149 yards. Mora and Max Slott each had 49 receiving yards and Pearson had 41.

The Trojans take a bye next week before opening Region 4 play on the road against No. 1-ranked Roswell on Oct. 7, while the War Eagles also rest next week in preparation for their Region 5 opener on the road against Lambert.

South Forsyth 0 7 7 7 - 21

Lassiter 21 14 0 0 - 35

L - Dawson Brown 60 pass from Bradley Riopelle (Ethan Laudato kick)

L - Kyle Syvarth 60 pass from Riopelle (Laudato kick)

L - Alex Venturino 40 run (Laudato kick)

L - Venturino 2 run (Laudato kick)

L - Spencer Horton 2 run (Laudato kick)

S - Ryan Pontrelli 11 pass from Davis Shanley (Alex Hardy kick)

S - Jaylen Pearson 22 pass from Shanley (Hardy kick)

S - Guy Morra 10 pass from Shanley (Hardy kick)

Branden Camp/Special to the AJC.

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